The Information You Receive

The format in which an agency releases information may be critical. As time goes by, more government information is stored in computers. Some state open records laws specifically state that computer data is public record information. Since 1996 the federal FOI Act has required agencies to post certain categories of government records on their web sites and to comply with FOI Act requests for disclosure in electronic formats.

For you, the critical issue is what is useful? A microfiche is useless if you don't have access to a reader. A printout that runs thousands of pages is useless, but a floppy disk of data you can load into a database and search may be invaluable. Therefore, if you know data is stored in computers you should ask for electronic files if you can use them. Also ask if special software is needed to manipulate the files or if the data is in a common format. If you need special software ask how you can get it.